Return of the Jedi (C64)

Return of the Jedi
C64, Dormark (1988)

Back during a time when most companies pressured programmers to code home versions of popular arcade games as quickly as possible, software publisher Dormark took a cool four years to bring Atari’s Return of the Jedi videogame to the home computer market. Far different from the color vector style used on the first two Star Wars arcade games, Return of the Jedi placed gamers in a Zaxxon-esque 3D perspective world, and contained several levels based on scenes from the movie. Dormark ported the arcade game to several platforms in 1988, including the Amiga and the Commodore 64.

Each level within Return of the Jedi consists of multiple scenes. The game begins with players controlling Princess Leia during a Speeder Bike chase. In an isometric view (moving from the lower-left hand corner of the screen toward the upper right), players must navigate their speeder bike through the Endor forest without crashing while being chased by Biker Scouts on speeder bikes at the same time. Allow a Biker Scout to trail you long enough and he’ll blast you to bits, so you’ll need to either outmaneuver them through the forest, or ram them into a forest object (tree, tree stump, etc.). Also on your side are the Ewoks, who have set up traps throughout the forest. Fly between two logs with a biker on your tail and the Ewoks will smash him – fly over a rope two Ewoks are holding, and they’ll clothesline a baddie. Be warned though; Ewoks, while cute, aren’t necessarily bright – they’ll gladly smash or clothesline you as well if you’re not careful. Yub Yub! The level ends when you reach the Ewok village.

The second half of the first level puts you behind the controls of the Millennium Falcon as you fly through the inside of the Death Star, destroying TIE Fighters and ultimately destroying the main reactor core. It only takes a few moments of playing to realize that this is essentially the same as the first level. Fly, slalom between objects, and shoot enemies.

Level two begins again with the speeder bikes, but contains different subsequent scenes. There’s a part where you take control of an AT-ST and must once again traverse the dangerous forest. Unlike Pitfall, which required players to jump over rolling logs, these wooden enemies can be blown to splinters by your Emperial gun turrets. In classic videogame logic, only logs rolling toward you can be destroyed; stationary ones kill you. So much for technology. The next level consists of gamers piloting the Millennium Falcon once again, this time traveling through space with X-Wings flanking you. You’ll encounter TIE Fighters, dodge Star Destroyers, and not need the Force to realize that every level in this game is essentially the same, but with different graphics.

One interesting aspect of gameplay, and something that really captures the spirit of the film, is that beginning the second level the levels will begin to flip back and forth between one another. You’ll be engaged in the middle of a TIE Fighter dogfight when the game will flip to the AT-ST level, where you will suddenly find yourself contending with oncoming logs. Clear those obstacles and the game will jump back to the TIE Fighter sequence. The game’s layout mimics the film’s sequences, and while initially jarring, the action does keep you from getting too bored with any one particular level.

Star Wars (the arcade game) is considered by many to be not only one of the best Star Wars games of all time, but one of the best arcade games of all time as well. Return of the Jedi had a lot to live up to and was met with mixed reviews. While certainly not one of the best games of all time, Return of the Jedi is okay in its own right. The levels are pattern-based requiring a slight amount of memorization to master, and the game itself is fairly repetitive with all the levels being basically the same save for graphical swaps, but it’s still not a bad little game. There are much, much worse Star Wars games available.

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